MARCH 2001 NEWS RELEASES 

 

WEEK OF MARCH 29

 

WEEK OF MARCH 22

WEEK OF MARCH 15

WEEK OF MARCH 8

WEEK OF MARCH 1

Kids, camps and the great outdoors

For many Oklahoma youth, summer is a time for fun and relaxation.

For youth interested in wildlife and the outdoors, one way to have fun this summer will be to attend one or several outdoor resource-related camps available this summer.

Quail Unlimited COVEY Kids Camp

The Oklahoma State Council of Quail Unlimited wants to provide the state’s youth with a quality outdoor experience through its COVEY Kids Camp.

"COVEY stands for Conserving Outdoors Values by Educating Youth," said Bob Hayes, camp chairman. "The camp is designed to help ensure that the next generation of sportsmen and conservationists will have the opportunity to experience all aspects of the great outdoors. Oklahoma’s camp has been recognized as the best camp in the nation at the Quail Unlimited National Convention.

According to Hayes, the camp will occur June 3-8 and is open to youths ages 13-16. The camp will be located at Camp Redlands, just outside Stillwater. Those attending the camp will be involved in a number of outdoor activities including completing the Oklahoma State University Out-door Challenge Course.

Participants will also experience hunting philosophy, ecosystems management, hunter safety/ethics and quail habitat management. They will have hands-on involvement with taxidermy, sporting clays, archery and muzzleloading.

Other hands on activities will involve cleaning and cooking quail and dog care and training. Those who chose will also have the opportunity to become hunter safety qualified.

Those interested in attending the camp need to apply by May 15. Cost for the camp is $250, which includes all expenses. In 2000, of the 29 campers, nearly all were sponsored totally or partially by Quail Unlimited chapters.

For more information, contact Bob Hayes, 918/542-1403.

National wildlife survey beginning

The U.S. Census Bureau is preparing to begin interviewing people for the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will sponsor the survey which will begin April 1. The survey is conducted every five years and provides the only comprehensive statistical data available related to participation and expenditures on hunting, fishing, birdwatching and other wildlife-related recreation.

"This survey provides very valuable information," said Andrea Crews, responsive management specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It identifies participation demands and trends and the expenditures involved with wildlife-related activities. The Department can use this information to better serve the sportsmen and citizens of Oklahoma."

Crews added that the survey is also a very good resource for the Department of Tourism and Recreation, other conservation groups and manufacturers of outdoor-related gear and equipment.

Participation in the survey is voluntary and all responses are confidential so participants can not be identified from information they release. Most survey interviews will be conducted by the telephone, however, interviews will be conducted in person if participants can not be reached by phone.

The survey will be paid for with funds from the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act. Initially, interviews should involve around 80,000 households across the nation. Follow-up interviews will also be conducted this September and in January, 2002.

Survey updates will be available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s home page at http://fa.r9.fws.gov/surveys/surveys.html and final results will be available in the fall of 2002.

1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Results

Number of Hunters in Oklahoma 297,000

Number of Anglers in Oklahoma 924,000

Number of Wildlife Watchers in Oklahoma 947,000

Money Spent Hunting $446 Million

Money Spent Fishing $490 Million

Money Spent Wildlife Watching $201 Million

Total Ripple Effect on State Economy $2.3 Billion

Recreationist may participate in multiple activities

Fishing is a great spring activity

            Old man winter is slowly losing its grasp on the Sooner state, and just like the weather, fishing is warming up, offering sportsmen an escape from cabin fever.

            "Water levels are up in some areas of the state due to recent rains, but that isn’t slowing fishing down any," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fish Division. "We have good reports coming in for a variety of species from most of our lakes. It is also hard to beat the action many anglers experience in farm ponds this time of year.

            "Farm ponds are a good bet early in the year, but don’t forget to obtain permission to fish from the landowner. The fish are responding to increasing water temperatures, which usually rise quicker than they do in larger bodies of water. Of course, temperatures are also rising slowly in many of our rivers and lakes, and good fishing will only get better as those temps continue to rise."

            Fishing is a great way to escape from the house and spend time enjoying the spring weather and the beauty of Oklahoma’s outdoors. Ponds, streams, rivers and lakes provide Oklahoma’s sportsmen ample opportunity for a good fishing experience. Many of these bodies of water occur in the most scenic areas of the state, offering anglers a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors when the action slows down.

            "It is easy to enjoy a day of fishing," Bolton said. "The state is blessed with thousands of acres of fishable waters and there is excellent access to these areas, whether fishing from a boat or from the bank. You can enjoy some great fishing with very basic equipment, so there isn’t any reason not to get out and enjoy the opportunity."

            Before heading out, anglers should consult the 2001 Oklahoma Fishing Guide for specific species and area regulations as well as license requirements. The guides are available at fishing and hunting license vendors across the state or by logging on to the Department’s website at  www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishregs2.htm.

 

Do something wild - donate to wildlife

Some will dread it. Others will feel relief.

Either way, the April 15 deadline for tax forms is quickly approaching and with it also comes the opportunity to make a refund donation to wildlife conservation on line 58 of the state tax form. The refund check-off provides vital funding to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Wildlife Diversity Program.

"Tax refund donations have been a very popular way for individuals to support wildlife conservation," said Julian Hilliard, natural resources information specialist with the Wildlife Department. "It is easy to do, and participants can donate part or all of their refund. By sharing their refund, they help protect our state's biological diversity.

"Without tax check-off donations, we would have a hard time continuing many of our projects. The Wildlife Diversity Program funds and performs surveys of rare and endangered species, produces a variety of wildlife-related brochures and guides, coordinates wildlife-viewing events throughout the state, and helps establish new places and opportunities through which the public can enjoy wildlife."

The Wildlife Department is funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise taxes placed on hunting and fishing equipment and by private donations. The Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations. Oklahomans concerned about wildlife conservation are urged to make a refund donation on line 58 of their state tax form this year.

Another way to support the Wildlife Diversity Program and show support for wildlife is by purchasing a $25 Wildlife Conservation License Plate. Four attractive designs of the popular license plates are available at your local tag agent. Direct donations can also be made out to: Wildlife Diversity Program, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln, OKC, OK 73105.

Contact the Wildlife Diversity Program at 405/521-4616 for more information or visit the Department's web-site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Wildlife Department and Weyerhaeuser celebrate access agreement

The three-year-old cooperative agreement between Weyerhaeuser Company and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) to maintain public recreation access to more than 450,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser-owned land in McCurtain County was celebrated by officials with both groups at a recent meeting in Broken Bow.

The historic agreement specifies that public hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities will be allowed as long as both parties are satisfied with the success of the cooperative venture. Approved in May 1998 by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Wildlife Department’s governing body, the access agreement specifies that anyone hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing or otherwise recreating on Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (almost all of Weyerhaeuser’s 450,000 acres lands in Oklahoma) must purchase a land access permit, which is $16 a year for residents and $25 a year for nonresidents.

"We applaud Weyerhaeuser Company for its commitment to preserving a way of life for thousands of local hunters and anglers, not to mention the thousands of other outdoor enthusiasts whose quality of life depends on maintaining access to these lands," said Greg Duffy, executive director of the Wildlife Department. "Sportsmen also deserve some key recognition for helping ensure the continued success of the agreement. By using the lands responsibly and promptly reporting illegal activity, outdoor enthusiasts have contributed to this great partnership success story."

Prior to the 1998 agreement, Weyerhaeuser had been reviewing its open lands policy for several years, seeking ways to reduce arson, dumping, vandalism and other illegal activities on its holdings. At the same time, the company desired to continue allowing legitimate public recreational uses such as hunting, camping, fishing, canoeing and hiking.

"We are very pleased with how our partnership with ODWC is working," said Jimmy Tucker, manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Kiamichi Tree Farm. "As the Three Rivers WMA agreement has matured, we are seeing improvements to several of the land use issues. ODWC is making a solid effort to keep the agreement active and successful for both parties, and for the people of southeast Oklahoma."

Under terms of the access agreement, the Wildlife Department conducts fish and wildlife surveys on Three Rivers WMA, make habitat management recommendations, conduct habitat enhancement projects including closing and seeding some roads to provide additional forage for wildlife and creating walk-in hunting opportunities.

Department personnel also collect and administer land access permit fees with funds dedicated to enhancing fish and wildlife habitat on Weyerhaeuser property. Increased patrolling and investigation of illegal activity on Three Rivers WMA also is part of the Department’s commitment.

For its part, Weyerhaeuser has agreed to keep most of its Oklahoma holdings open to public outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing and trapping. Additionally, the company assists Department personnel in improving fish and wildlife habitat, through such activities as managing its streamside zones to minimize disturbances along creeks. The company also provides maps of its lands to the Department, which are distributed to the public.

Land access permits also entitle holders to use Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area, a 275,000-acre area in Pushmataha and LeFlore counties. Honobia Creek WMA was created through a similar cooperative access agreement with John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, another large corporate landowner in southeast Oklahoma. The agreement between the Department and Hancock for continued access on Honobia Creek WMA was enacted in 1995.

Permits can be purchased at any hunting and fishing license dealer statewide, and area maps are available through the Wildlife Department or locally in stores and businesses near Honobia Creek and Three Rivers WMAs. The only persons who are exempt from having to purchase the permit are residents under 18 years of age or 64 years of age and older.

Apply for special hunts on-line

Sportsmen who wish to submit applications for more than 1,000 controlled hunts offered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation can now do so over the Internet.

"The on-line system not only makes it easier for sportsmen to apply for hunts, but it also helps ensure they submit an accurate application" said Melinda Sturgess, Chief of Administration for the Wildlife Department. "We believe the system is very user friendly and simplifies the application procedure. The Department is also able to process the applications much easier and at a lower cost, which is a benefit to the state’s sportsmen.

"We were the first state wildlife management agency to allow constituents to apply on-line. The initial introduction to the process took place last year and was very popular. Overall, about 45 percent of the applicants used the on-line system last year, and we expect even more to take advantage of the system this year."

Sturgess said there are several advantages to applying on-line for the controlled hunts. The system eliminates concern about lost applications and the program lets applicants know immediately if their application was accepted.

The system will not accept any applications that are incomplete or show discrepancies, and will alert the applicant to check the information provided if something isn’t correctly filled out. Applicants can confirm the applications receipt by clicking on the confirmation link provided on the Controlled Hunts Page.

Those interested in applying for controlled hunts on-line can log on to the Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on the 2001-2002 Controlled Hunts link. The site will provide all information needed to apply, including hunt categories and area hunt dates and locations.

Controlled hunts application booklets are also available at Department installations and license vendors statewide. The deadline for applying is May 4.

Applicants will be able to check drawing results on the Department’s website beginning July 23. The Department will also post drawing results at its main office in Oklahoma City and at its regional offices for those who want to check the results in person.  

water works wonders logo

 

Fishing opportunities abound in Oklahoma

Spring is finally here.

So, take advantage of it.

Break the rods and reels out of winter storage, load up the family and head to that favorite fishing spot. Whether fishing out of a boat or from the bank, the opportunities are endless for some great fishing action across the Sooner State.

"Oklahoma has a lot of water and everyone knows water works wonders," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fish Division. "Fishing is a lot of fun and it provides a great opportunity to rekindle relationships with friends or family members. We have received good reports from across the state recently, so it would be a great time to get in on the action."

To get a jump on the action, take a look at the following species before heading out.

White Bass

White bass are found in most waters state-wide and they are notorious for their fighting ability. They will begin spawning runs up many of Oklahoma’s streams and rivers during March and April. Scattered reports indicate anglers are catching sand bass that are beginning to run in southern areas of the state.

White bass fishing is also good in most lakes across the state, as the fish begin to congregate in the mouths of most lake tributaries for their spawning run. As they stage, anglers can enjoy some very hot action by fishing with minnows, twister-tail jigs and medium running crankbaits.

Crappie

Crappie fishing around the state continues to improve as the fish begin to gather before spawning from late-March to early-May. They will continue to congregate in preparation for the spawn.

To get in on some good action, try fishing minnows and jigs around structure, 10 to 20 feet deep, off gradually sloping shorelines. Don’t be afraid to move around. Crappie often move in and out of shallow water this time of year, depending on weather, time of day and water temperature. Try fishing deeper structure during mornings and evenings and along shady banks while fishing shallower structure during mid-day on sun-lit banks.

Largemouth Bass

Spring is the best time of year for anglers to catch a trophy largemouth bass. Two Oklahoma anglers have already caught fish over 14 pounds this year.

Anglers should have good results by fishing flooded timber and other deep underwater structure with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and plastic worms. Shiners and goldfish can be good choices as well.

Catfish

Catfish are abundant in streams, rivers and lakes across Oklahoma, and spring is an excellent time to experience some quality catfishing action.

Some of the best action can be found in Oklahoma’s tributaries by fishing with shad, liver, worms or cut baits. Whether fishing from a boat or from the bank, using rods and reels, or limb-lines, look for eddies in these tributaries and give catfishing a spin.

To find out more about local lakes and what species are biting, check out the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s fishing report by logging on to the Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com

Fishing is a great spring activity

Old man winter is slowly losing its grasp on the Sooner state, and just like the weather, fishing is warming up, offering sportsmen an escape from cabin fever.

"Water levels are up in some areas of the state due to recent rains, but that isn’t slowing fishing down any," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fish Division. "We have good reports coming in for a variety of species from most of our lakes. It is also hard to beat the action many anglers experience in farm ponds this time of year.

"Farm ponds are a good bet early in the year, but don’t forget to obtain permission to fish from the landowner. The fish are responding to increasing water temperatures, which usually rise quicker than they do in larger bodies of water. Of course, temperatures are also rising slowly in many of our rivers and lakes, and good fishing will only get better as those temps continue to rise."

Fishing is a great way to escape from the house and spend time enjoying the spring weather and the beauty of Oklahoma’s outdoors. Ponds, streams, rivers and lakes provide Oklahoma’s sportsmen ample opportunity for a good fishing experience. Many of these bodies of water occur in the most scenic areas of the state, offering anglers a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors when the action slows down.

"It is easy to enjoy a day of fishing," Bolton said. "The state is blessed with thousands of acres of fishable waters and there is excellent access to these areas, whether fishing from a boat or from the bank. You can enjoy some great fishing with very basic equipment, so there isn’t any reason not to get out and enjoy the opportunity."

Before heading out, anglers should consult the 2001 Oklahoma Fishing Guide for specific species and area regulations as well as license requirements. The guides are available at fishing and hunting license vendors across the state or by logging on to the Department’s website at  www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishregs2.htm.

 

 

picture of two quailQuail COVEY Kids Camp scheduled

The Oklahoma State Council of Quail Unlimited has scheduled its 2001 Oklahoma COVEY (Conserving Outdoors Values by Educating Youth) Kids Camp for June 3-8 at Camp Redlands, located outside Stillwater.

This camp is designed to help ensure that the next generation of sportsmen and conservationists will have the same opportunities as all previous generations to experience all aspects of the great outdoors.

According to COVEY Kids Camp Chairman Bob Hayes, the camp is for youths ages 13-16 and involves hunting philosophy, ecosystems management, hunter safety/ethics and quail habitat management. Along with safety and wildlife management courses, the campers will have hands-on involvement with taxidermy, sporting clays, archery, muzzleloading, cleaning and cooking of quail and training and care of dogs.

In addition, one day will be devoted to completing the Oklahoma State University Outdoor Challenge Course. Campers will also have the opportunity to test to become hunter safety qualified.

"Our first six camps were very successful and we have been recognized as having the number one camp in the United States at the Quail Unlimited National Convention," Hayes said. "We have had excellent evaluations from the youth that have attended the previous camps."

Cost for the camp is $250, which includes all expenses. In 2000, of the 29 campers, nearly all were sponsored totally or partially by Quail Unlimited chapters.

For more information, contact Bob Hayes, 918/542-1403.

Department schedules pre-employment exam

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized employment examination Friday, March 30, at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College.

The exam is for all individuals seeking full time positions with the Department as wildlife biologists, game wardens, assistant hatchery managers, technicians and information and education specialists. It will cover state and federal wildlife laws and regulations, Oklahoma geography, biological and environmental sciences relating to fish, wildlife and environmental education and communication; journalism, photojournalism, technical writing and editing.

Individuals may take the exam once in a 12-month period, and test scores are valid for 12 months from the test date. Applications for employment will be sent to the individuals with the top 25 scores. Taking the exam does not guarantee employment, nor does the exam necessarily indicate the Department currently has openings. Interviews will be scheduled only when an opening is available.

The Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium is north of I-40 at the intersection of I-40 and Hudiburg Rd. in Midwest City. The doors will close promptly at 10 a.m. Those arriving after 10 a.m. will not be permitted to take the exam.

Wildlife funding bills still active

Two wildlife funding measures are still alive in the Legislature, one that would provide about $8.5 million from existing sales tax revenues collected on hunting and fishing equipment and the other that would provide an estimated $3-6 million by levying an additional one-and-a-half cent sales tax increase on hunting and fishing equipment. Both bills call for a vote of the people to approve the funding concepts, although only one measure - or a compromise between the two - is likely to be adopted.

Though constitutionally required to manage the state’s fish and wildlife resources, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no general tax appropriations to accomplish its mission. Instead, most of the Department’s operating funds come from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and a special federal excise tax that is generated when hunters and anglers purchase sporting goods. In recent years, however, agency revenue has decreased while operating costs have risen.

"Oklahoma’s outdoor enthusiasts have always enjoyed a high level of service from the Wildlife Department, but the current economic climate makes it increasingly difficult to provide the quality of service our constituents deserve, and expect," said Greg Duffy, executive director of the Wildlife Department. "Our personnel and equipment are stretched to the limit, and without additional funding, we will have to look even more closely at cutting back or eliminating some programs and services."

Although the Department did not cut its overall budget during the current fiscal year, the three previous years each witnessed a two-percent cut, leading to numerous vacancies in agency personnel, among other things. The agency strives to have at least one state game warden in each county, two in many counties. Currently, however, three counties no longer have a game warden stationed in the county, with wardens from neighboring counties assigned to cover the vacancies.

Of the two current wildlife funding measures active, House Joint Resolution 1008 by Rep. Dale Smith of St. Louis would provide the most revenue. House analysts estimate HJR 1008 would provide $8.5 million per year for fish and wildlife conservation and management. Specifically, the joint resolution calls for a vote of the people to approve annually transferring 25 percent of the state sales taxes currently paid on hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment to the Wildlife Department. HJR 1008 passed the House March 12 on a 71-24 vote. A provision to hold a special election this August to allow citizens to vote on the measure did not pass.

"Hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors are vital quality of life issues," said Rep. Smith. "It is essential that we act now to ensure the long-term viability of Wildlife Department services and programs. Oklahomans deserve first-class outdoor recreation, and it is up to us to provide a financial foundation to see that the opportunities we now enjoy continue into the future."

The second funding bill, Senate Joint Resolution 9 by Sen. Frank Shurden of Henryetta, calls for a vote of the people to establish a one-and-a-half cent sales tax increase on certain hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment with the proceeds going to the Wildlife Department. SJR 9 would provide an estimated $3-6 million depending on which items are included, and it passed the Senate March 12 on a 25-17 vote.

"We are pleased to see that fish and wildlife funding is a priority with both the House and Senate, and are optimistic one of the measures, or compromise language, will be approved," said Duffy.

Anyone wanting to track the current status of fish and wildlife measures can log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com for a complete summary of active legislation. The legislative tracker is updated daily and also offers a link to the State Legislature.

Picture of father and son with their turkey.Turkey season generating excitement

Spring is quickly approaching and for thousands of Oklahoma sportsmen, the anticipation is building for the spring turkey season.

Oklahoma’s spring turkey season will open April 6, and will run through May 6, 2001, except for the southeastern counties of Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pushmataha, where the season runs from April 11 to May 1.

"We’re expecting a very good season," said Bill Dinkines, Widlife Division assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Our turkey populations are very healthy across the state. In fact, we have huntable populations in all 77 counties.

"Eastern turkey populations in Oklahoma have increased significantly since the early 1990s. We have a very good age-structure in the southeast which means a good number of mature gobblers. If the weather is decent, I would expect good gobbling activity throughout the season."

"We’re also in good shape with our Rio Grande turkeys across the state," agreed Rod Smith, southwest regional Wildlife supervisor. We’ve had ideal conditions throughout the nesting and brood rearing periods for several years now, and the birds have responded to those conditions. We have had good recruitment so we have a lot of mature toms and a good jake crop as well."

With stable and increasing turkey populations across the state, sportsmen who head out into Oklahoma’s outdoors should enjoy a good experience this spring. To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license, as well as a turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the turkey permit.

Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the 2000-2001 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on-line at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Patience, comfort can add to success

Most turkey hunters know that preseason scouting will help lead to a successful hunt. But, scouting isn’t the only thing that can lead to success. Remaining patient and comfortable in the woods can often make the difference in harvesting a wily tom.

For some unknown reason, there are days every year that toms remain silent and won’t gobble at all. Silent birds are often harder to hunt, but just because they aren’t calling doesn’t mean they have left the area.

To be successful on these days of silence, hunters should rely on their scouting knowledge. Remember where the birds have been roosting, traveling and feeding and select one of these areas to set up in. Be sure to select a dry, comfortable and safe area and incorporate some sort of seat or cushion in the set-up.

A decoy or two can be very useful, but any calling should be very light and done sparingly. Don’t be tempted to move and find other birds. Chances to harvest silent toms are lost every year when hunters prematurely move to find better areas.

Remain patient and allow birds to follow their routine. Be alert, ready and sit as still as possible. A silent gobbler can sneak in to check out a decoy at any time and movement will send it scurrying in the opposite direction.

A hunt can be very enjoyable when gobbles are booming across the landscape from every direction. But vocalization doesn’t guarantee success and a hunter who remains patient, comfortable, ready and alert will find they can often lure a silent tom within range.

 

Angler lands large bass at Broken Bow

Broken Bow Lake, which produced the current state-record largemouth bass in 1999, has produced another large bass this year. Rodney Shrouder of Broken Bow caught a 14-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass while fishing the southeast Oklahoma Lake on March 5.

"We were pre-fishing for a tournament," Shrouder said. "The lake was up pretty good, and we were out hitting the brush with our lures. It was around 8 a.m. and I hooked the fish on a jig in about 15 1/2 feet of water.

"We ran into the park ranger, Steve Lumpkin, on the way back to the ramp, and he showed us where to have the fish officially weighed. We weighed and measured the fish around 12:30 p.m. and I was able to release it back into the lake within the hour."

The bass officially weighed 14.07 pounds (14 pounds, 1-ounce) and was 28 inches long with a 20 -inch girth. The weight places the fish in a tie for third on Oklahoma’s Top 20 Largemouth Bass List. It was actually a half inch longer than the current state-record largemouth caught in Broken Bow Lake on March 14, 1999, by angler William Cross. The record fish was 27 1/2 inches long with a 22 3/4-inch girth and weighed 14 pounds, 11-ounces.

Anyone catching a fish they think may be a state record is encouraged to weigh the fish as quickly as possible on certified scales (usually available at grocery stores, meat markets, ect.). To be official, a Wildlife Department employee must witness the weigh-in, and an official state record affidavit must be submitted.

OKC Fishing Regulation Changes Clarified

Recent reports outlining possible changes in Oklahoma City-area fishing regulations have proven to be somewhat confusing, leading the Wildlife Department to clarify the proposed rule changes published earlier.

All of the following regulation changes will be effective January 1, 2002, pending approval by the OKC City Council.

For Lakes Hefner, Draper and Overholser, there would be only three changes from current fishing regulations. They are lowering the minimum size limit on smallmouth bass to 18 inches, increasing the daily limit on walleye to five fish, and restricting bowfishing to daylight hours only.

Also authorized pending City Council approval are provisions to enter into a cooperative agreement with OKC Parks and Recreation Department to expand fishing opportunities in many of Oklahoma City’s smaller water bodies. These waters include Dolese Youth Park Pond, Kid's Lake, Crystal Lake, all waters within the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, and the North Canadian River extending downstream from NW 10th Street bridge (including impoundments, ponds and wetlands) to NE 10th Street in Oklahoma City. The new regulations also would apply to South Park Ponds and Edwards Park Pond, both of which are slated to open in the future.

These smaller water bodies have been designed "Close To Home Fishing Waters," and will have - again pending City Council approval - the following regulations:

Species Minimum Size Daily bag limit

All black bass none catch and release only

Channel and blue catfish none six (6) fish (combined)

Crappie none 37

Flathead catfish 20-inch ten (10)

Other none same as state regulations

Bowfishing, trotlines, limblines, juglines, yo-yo's, gigs, spears, spearguns, nets, noodling and snagging are prohibited in "Close to Home" fishing waters, except noodling (fishing with hands only) is permitted in the North Canadian River from NW 10th Street bridge downstream to MacArthur St. bridge. Fishing is restricted to no more than three (3) rods or poles per person, with no more than three (3) hooks per line; provided this restriction does not apply to artificial lures having more than three hooks.

City ordinances pertaining to fishing and boating permits, boating regulations, and restricted areas will remain in effect and will be enforced by the City.

Hunting and fishing rule changes adopted

At its regular March meeting, held March 5 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to implement a number of hunting and fishing regulation changes that were discussed at public hearings in January.

The hunting regulation changes, most of which were housekeeping measures or minor changes relating to specific wildlife management areas, will become effective with this fall's hunting seasons. Although the changes will be detailed in the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, several focused on providing additional raccoon hunting opportunities at the Deep Fork and Little River national wildlife refuges, as per a previous agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A complete listing of each rule change will be posted under the "Hunting" link on the Wildlife Department's website - www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Also approved by Commissioners at their March meeting were a slate of fishing regulation changes that will be effective Jan. 1, 2002. A number of the adopted proposals relate to establishing a joint agreement with Oklahoma City to cooperatively manage metro-area lakes and rivers, including Lakes Hefner, Draper and Overholser. An important part of the agreement is to standardize the fishing regulations on Oklahoma City lakes and other metro-area waters so that both the Wildlife Department and Oklahoma City can enforce the same rules regarding fishing. Most of the current regulations covered by city ordinances will remain unchanged; however, the agreement will liberalize the rules on smallmouth bass and walleye.

The minimum size limit on smallmouth bass will be reduced from 23 inches to 18 inches and the daily limit on walleye will be increased from three to five. The Wildlife Commission approved the proposed changes pending acceptance by the Oklahoma City Council. Other new fishing regulations for 2002 include:

• establishing a 14-inch minimum length limit on black bass at Pine Creek Reservoir, except there will be no size limit on spotted bass. The previous protective slot length limit was imposed in 1992 when catch rates for small bass were high and catch rates for larger bass were low. Since 1995, however, catch rates for largemouth bass less than 12 inches long have dropped below desirable levels, which warrants a change to a minimum size limit.

• reducing the minimum size limit on walleye and saugeye at Ft. Cobb Reservoir from 18 inches to 14 inches, with no change in the daily limit, which remains five fish. Annual fluctuations in shad density limit saugeye growth beyond 14 inches, which has led to few anglers catching fish above the statewide 18-inch minimum size limit.

• implementing a six fish per day, no minimum size limit on rainbow trout in the Mountain Fork River from the re-regulation dam downstream to Hwy. 70. The area has been designated a trophy area for both rainbows and browns with a one-fish, 20-inch minimum size limit for both species. However, few rainbow trout greater than 20 inches have been collected during surveying in this section of the trout stream, and biologists believe that until summertime water temperatures in the river are reduced, anglers should be allowed to keep smaller rainbow trout. The trophy trout regulations (one fish daily limit, 20-inch minimum size limit) will remain in effect for brown trout.

• increasing the number of rods a person may fish with from five to seven to comply with state statutes. There are certain exceptions to this regulation, which are outlined in the 2001 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.

• establishing rules pertaining to possession and importation of restricted noxious aquatic plants. Unless restricted, the spread of noxious aquatic plants could dramatically harm Oklahoma's fisheries and impact boaters, marinas and water supply lakes.

In other business, Commission members voted to accept a bid to lease the Department's one-quarter mineral interest on a parcel of Department-owned property in Ellis County, and agreed to accept sealed bids on another proposed mineral rights lease, this one in Atoka County. Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples reported that increased natural gas prices have led to increased in interest in gas exploration, which has led to more inquiries regarding mineral rights on Department-owned areas.

Also at the March meeting, Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with the State Auditor and Inspector's Office to conduct a management audit of the Department. A Commission subcommittee consisting of Commissioners Ed Abel, Vyrl Keeter, Mark Patton and Lewis Stiles will work with State Auditor Clifton Scott to delineate specific audit areas.

As an informational item, Fisheries Chief Kim Erickson and Information and Education Chief David Warren told the Commission that Oklahoma has been selected as one of only four states to pilot a national advertising campaign focused on increasing fishing, boating and aquatic resource stewardship awareness and participation. A non-profit organization called the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) is spearheading the first phase of the campaign, which is aimed at generating top-of-mind awareness about the benefits of fishing and boating. The RBFF will spend millions of dollars advertising nationally, including purchasing airtime during the upcoming NCAA basketball championships. As a pilot state, the Department's campaign will target Norman and Muskogee with a localized marketing effort to piggyback with the national campaign message: "Water Works Wonders for Fishing, Boating and the Environment."

Jontie Aldrich, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Tulsa Office, also provided Commissioners with an informational presentation. Aldrich outlined the USFWS's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a habitat conservation effort that has helped fund numerous projects in Oklahoma. The Wildlife Department was recognized for its interagency cooperation in helping achieve the goals of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Also recognized at the March meeting was Safari Club Inter-national (SCI). Executive Director Greg Duffy presented Nyle Taylor, Oklahoma Station of SCI, the Director's Award for the chapter's support of the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. Over the past six years, the Oklahoma Station of SCI has, through the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program, distributed more than 200,000 pounds of venison to needy individuals. Through these contributions, hunters have helped provide almost one million meals of high-quality deer meat. Without Safari Club's support, Duffy said, the program would not have been nearly as successful.

In his monthly report, Director Duffy reported that a number of fish and wildlife bills are continuing through the legislative process in the House and Senate, including several provisions that would provide additional funding for the agency and protect hunters' and anglers' privileges. Complete details and current status reports of individual measures can be obtained by logging on to the Department's website and looking under www.wildlifedepartment.com/legislation.htm

The Commission's regular April meeting will be held Monday, April 2, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Anglers Guide now available

Spring is a perfect time to get out and enjoy the beauty of Oklahoma's outdoors. It's also the time to get in on some of the best angling action the state has to offer.

Before heading out anglers will want to grab a copy of the "2001 Oklahoma Anglers Guide." The informative guide can be found in the March/April 2001 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official publication of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"The Anglers Guide is always popular with the state's anglers," said Nels Rodefeld, Outdoor Oklahoma editor. "It provides electrofishing results, tournament data, stocking rates and premier destinations for many popular species. Overall, it is packed with information that every angler can use in some way.

"The Department's stream management program is also highlighted in this year's guide. Streams are a very important resource to our anglers and we wanted to provide them information about the Department's efforts to protect and improve these resources."

The magazine also features a unique look back into the past. "Hunting for Our Heritage," uses historical records to show that those who chased the state's wildlife in the past weren't as conscientious as they are today.

The magazine will also provide insights into the Department's law enforcement division and Oklahoma's state bird, the Scissortailed Flycatcher. The Off the Beaten Path section will provide sportsmen with important information and tips and the Watchable Wildlife Profile features the Double-Crested Cormorant.

Individual copies of the March/April 2001 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma are available for $3 if picked up at any of the Wildlife Department's offices, or $4 by mail (mail to Outdoor Oklahoma, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105). One-year subscriptions, which are only $10, are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can order over the Internet by logging on to the Department's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Editors Note: Large bass caught at Broken Bow

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is working to confirm reports of a 14 pound, .07 ounce, largemouth bass caught late last week in Broken Bow Lake. We have confirmed the weight of the fish, but have not been able to contact the angler or confirm reports that he was able to successfully release the fish. The Department will continue its efforts to contact the angler, and will have more details available in their news release next week.

Broken Bow Lake produced the current state record largemouth, a 14 pound, 11 ounce fish caught by angler William Cross on March 14, 1999.

Editor's Note:

Beginning March 5, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation implemented a process designed to track fish and wildlife legislation in a more timely, accurate manner. Under the new system, all active fish and wildlife-related bills will be listed on the Department's website, and they will be accompanied by a status description that will be updated immediately upon a change in status. In other words, if we learn that a bill has passed the House on Tuesday, its status will be updated that same day. This system is designed to replace the previous tracking method, which involved issuing a status summary only at the end of each week.

To find the legislative tracker on our website, go under "Weekly Wildlife News Service" on the index (first) page. From there, click on "Legislation Updated Daily." The exact URL is www.wildlifedepartment.com/legislation.htm

This change is intended to provide everyone with better information, and to do it more quickly than traditional print methods.

Department offers trips for auction

Oklahoma sportsmen still have time to submit their bids on two expeditions offered for auction by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Sealed bids can be submitted for a bull elk hunt as well as a fishing package for two until March 23, 2001.

"Anyone can bid on one or both of these trips and proceeds raised will help fund fish and wildlife conservation," said Greg Duffy, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "In the final 21st Century Deer Stakeholder Committee Report, presented to the Wildlife Conservation Commission several months ago, committee members recommended using some of the proceeds to issue a challenge grant to raise funds for the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. Depending on the auction results, we may look at bringing the suggestion before the Commission for their consideration."

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, approved the auction items at its regular February meeting. One item will be a bull elk hunt on the Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area, a rugged 13,650-acre area in northeast Oklahoma's Ozark country. The expedition will be a guided, three-day hunt and can take place anytime in September, October or November. The hunter can choose to hunt with a bow and arrow, muzzleloader or modern riffle.

The other item up for auction is a special fishing package for two that includes overnight accommodations and guided trips for trophy striped bass, trophy largemouth bass and Ouachita smallmouth bass. Dates are subject to availability and scheduling between sportsmen and guides.

Specific accommodations include:

• A June 13, 2001, trophy stripers trip on the lower Illinois River with guide Delmer Shoults. Lodging will be provided for the night of June 12, at the MarVal Trout Camp, located on the banks of the lower Illinois trout stream.

• A day of chasing striped bass at Lake Texoma with two Department selected fishing specialist. Peak surface fishing times are between April 15 and May 15. Bob's Lake Country Motel, Kingston will provide lodging.

• A one-day largemouth bass trip with trophy bass guide, Chuck Justice, on one of Oklahoma's most noted trophy bass lakes, McGee Creek. The trip can be booked anytime, but the best time will be between April and June. Lodging will be provided by Firefly Hollow.

• A one-day Ouachita smallmouth bass trip on the upper Mountain Fork River with guide Ethan Wright and a stream management specialist. The trip can be taken anytime, but prime floating dates are April to June. Whipporwill Cabins, at Broken Bow will provide lodging. Breakfast will also be provided.

Bidding is open to individuals and organizations and permits may be transferred one time by the successful bidder. Winning bidders will be notified by phone on Monday, March 26. Payment must be received 10 days after the notification.

Bids can be submitted by sending a sealed envelope to: Auction Hunts, ODWC, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Be sure to specify bid price and package. For more information, log onto the Department's website: www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Sign-up continues for habitat program

Landowners can continue to sign-up for the Natural Resources Conservation Services Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP).

The program provides technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to help establish fish and wildlife habitat. Landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on their land may sign up for cost-share assistance through the Program.

"This year's sign-up period for WHIP will be March 5-23," said John Hendrix, private lands biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Those interested in signing up for WHIP need to call their local Natural Resources Conservation Office. If they aren't for sure which office to contact or if they have any questions, they can call me at 405/880-0994."

Landowners who sign an agreement are responsible for maintaining the project for five to 10 years. Conservation practices that may qualify can include fencing for habitat protection, planting shrubs or trees to develop habitat, or timber management practices. Other practices that may qualify can include water facilities improvement, wetland development and improvement, pond fisheries management, prescribed burning and native grass plantings.

Private landowners play a vital role in conserving wildlife and fisheries habitat in Oklahoma. WHIP is a very important and popular program for landowners across the state. It will provide over $1 million in landowner assistance, for habitat conservation, to Oklahoma land-owners this year.

Preparation key to safety

Spring is just around the corner, and many Oklahoma sportsmen have already began preparing for the spring turkey season. The most important preparation may involve taking measures to stay safe while in the field.

"It's never too early to think about safety," said J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Turkey hunting is usually a very safe sport. But, there are several things turkey hunters should keep in mind while gathering their equipment in preparation for the season.

"One of the most important items on a turkey hunters list should be hunter orange garments. Hunters should wear hunter orange as they are entering or exiting their hunting area, and if they harvest a turkey, they should wrap it in hunter orange before removing it from the woods."

Peer adds that hunters should avoid any red, white or blue materials while turkey hunting because they resemble colors of a tom turkey's head. Another hunter might mistake movement of these colors as a turkey. For this reason, hunters should never shoot at movement or at sound without positively identifying their target.

Hunters should keep other safety concerns in mind once finding the spot they want to hunt. They should choose a position that allows their back to be protected. Solid cover that is wider than the shoulders and more than head high is an excellent choice. Another safety measure is to alert other hunters entering the area by speaking to them in a clear voice.

"Statistically, turkey hunting is four times safer than playing ping pong," Peer added. "Spring is a great time to be outdoors, and by taking a few extra safety precautions hunters will enjoy the time they spend in the field."

 

 

 Habitat Donor patch 2001 an antelope 2001 Habitat Donor Patch Available

Wildlife and fisheries conservation begins with habitat conservation. Habitat consists of food, water, cover and space, and every species must have satisfactory amounts of these items in order to survive.

The type, amount and arrangement of habitat needed for wildlife to flourish will vary from species to species. Wildlife and fisheries managers must determine what those needs are for each species and the best way to protect, enhance or create new habitat in order to protect the state's natural resources.

To help fund wildlife conservation, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation created Wildlife Habitat Donor patches and caps which may be obtained with a small donation to habitat conservation. Those donating $5 will receive a habitat patch, while those donating $10 will receive a patch and cap.

Wildlife habitat donor patches and caps are often considered collector's items and are an important source of funding for habitat conservation. The 2001 Oklahoma Wildlife Habitat Donor patch and caps, featuring a pronghorn antelope, are now available from the Wildlife Department.

Purchases can be made at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City and at its Tulsa Office located at Expo Square in the Tulsa Fairgrounds. Patches and caps can also be ordered by mail through the Department's Outdoor Store. Caps ordered through the mail cost $13, which includes shipping and handling.

Outdoor Store order forms may be found in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine and on the Department's website: www.wildlifedepartment.com. Other orders can be made by simply sending a check or money order to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Attn: Habitat Donor Patches and Caps, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

Wildlife Department receives state awards
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was recently honored with several awards from the Oklahoma Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalist. 
A total of 7,000 entries were submitted in newspaper, television, radio, magazines, public relations and websites. Professional journalist from three other states judged the entries and awards were presented at an annual banquet held Feb. 24. The Wildlife Department received awards in television, magazine and web sites.

"These awards mean a lot to the Department because the recognition comes from outside the conservation arena," said David Warren, the Department's Information and Education chief. "The Department is always trying to improve the products and services we provide to the state's sportsmen. We are proud to know we compete well with what others are doing outside the agency."

The Wildlife Department received four awards in all, including a third place finish for its web site. Another award was presented for the Department's magazine, Outdoor Oklahoma. The July/August 2000 issue featuring a readers’ photo showcase took first place honors among magazines for feature photography.

The Department's television program, Outdoor Oklahoma, was recognized as well. It was awarded first place in Videography -- Series/Documentary, for its entry featuring a Glover River float trip. The show also received a second place finish in Special Program/Series or Documentary, for its entry featuring the story of the American bison.

"There are a lot of TV shows, news programs, magazines and websites produced across this state," Warren said. "We are honored that the judges recognized the efforts we put before them."

Conservation Order in full swing
The Oklahoma waterfowl season came to an end in February, but hunters still have a chance to go afield and participate in the special Conservation Order Light Goose Season. The Conservation Order allows hunters the opportunity to harvest snow, blue and Ross' geese through April 1, 2001.


"Light geese are damaging their breeding habitat in the Hudson Bay area," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "This is a very unique situation for migratory game bird managers. If populations aren't brought under control, they could destroy the fragile tundra ecosystem that they and many other species depend on for breeding habitat.


"The habitat may already be damaged to the point that it will not recover in our lifetime. The Conservation Order offers hunters a great chance to help decrease and manage light goose populations."


Oklahoma hunters can take advantage of unplugged shotguns, extended shooting hours and electronic calls during the Order. Daily bag limits and possession limits have also been removed. All other waterfowl regulations apply during the Conservation Order, including the use of federally approved non-toxic shot.


Traditionally, light geese concentrations are greatest in the eastern third of the state. National Wildlife Refuges and Department owned wetland development units may also attract varying numbers of light geese.


"The hardest part about hunting light geese this time of year may be finding geese," O'Meilia added. "Light goose migrations vary from year to year depending on the conditions. Most geese have over-flown the state the last couple of years, and ended up making stopovers in Kansas and Nebraska instead.


"This isn't any different than any other hunting situation. Scouting is critical. Geese can show up and leave at any time so it may take considerable time and energy to find concentrations. Geese usually congregate to feed on privately-owned wheat fields, so it is very important to get permission from the landowner before hunting as well."


Hunting methods vary, but hunters should remember that light geese are very social birds, so large decoy spreads may be required. Rag decoys may provide hunters the number of decoys needed at the smallest expense. Light geese are extremely vocal as well, so hunters using large spreads might want to consider using more than one caller.


Hunters may also have success hunting fields without decoys. Geese often use the same field day after day. Hunters who scout a field will learn the direction from which geese are coming and the area of the field in which they prefer to eat. They may then use a fence-row or tarps to hide from approaching geese.


The Wildlife Department must estimate the number of geese harvested in the state during the Conservation Order and are asking participating hunters to provide their name, address and phone number. Hunters may sign up by going to the Department's web-site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or by sending a letter or postcard to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Attn: COLGS, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.